The tragic events in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14 rocked the nation. It was nearly, if not totally impossible, to comprehend. Understandably, parents of young children heard the news with the heaviest of hearts.
The fact is Newtown could have been any town in America — it could have been Payson. These thoughts, along with a strong desire to help in some way, sparked the idea for Payson Praying for Newtown, a project that unfolded in the days following the tragedy.
With a look at the resources readily at his disposal and a network of friends, a Payson father called his wife and mentioned an idea. That night, the couple, that asked to remain anonymous, met with others and came up with a concept for a simple T-shirt. The shirt, and its proceeds, they hoped would deliver a message of hope and love to the families directly affected by the shooting.
The man designed a green shirt with white ink (Sandy Hook Elementary School’s colors) that read: “Pray for Newtown, CT” with a white outline of Connecticut on the front. The names of 26 who lost their lives in the shooting were put on the back of the shirt.
All proceeds from the sale of the shirts, minus material costs, is being donated to the Newtown Memorial Fund, an organization working directly with victims’ families.
The project came together quickly, organizers said.
In 24 hours, screen-printing supplies, labor, and advertising posters were all eagerly and lovingly donated to the cause by caring business owners. Other small businesses stepped up to make sure the word got out around town.
Local business owners put up posters in shop windows across Payson. A Facebook page was established to spread the word and rose to 150 followers within a day.
Orders came in right away. In Payson, across the state and from other states across the country, people were glad to have a way to help show their support for the families and small town.
Two orders came directly from Newtown residents themselves. The organizers said, “The response was so much more than we expected. In the wake of something so horrific, it is really gratifying to see such a testimony to other side of humanity, supportive and compassionate.”
In the two-week project, more than 200 shirts were ordered. Along with the money raised from the shirt sales, the organizers asked all shirt purchasers to compose a message of hope, and to take a photo wearing the shirt, so they could all be sent, along with the check, to Newtown.
Catching wind of the project, the Payson Longhorn varsity boys basketball team approached organizers wanting to help. Coaches and team members graciously bought and wore the shirts at their pre-game warm-up before facing Show Low last week with Payson’s coaching staff wearing them until the game ended. After the game, team members signed a shirt with messages to include with the care package sent out to Newtown.
“Our vision was to see this town covered in green for the families in Newtown,” said the project’s organizer.
While the ordering has officially closed, when all of the shirts have been finished and delivered, the couple looks forward to having a large group photo taken at Green Valley Park with all the Payson participants, to include in the package being sent out.
Organizers wish to send the most heartfelt of thanks to everyone who donated time or resources, bought shirts, or prayed for the families. They maintain that the Rim Country’s selfless commitment to their fellow man is glowingly evident.
“When we started this project we did so with the mission statement: From one tight-knit community to another, with love above all.”
If you wish to follow the project as it continues, or to write a message to the families affected in the Newtown tragedy visit: www. facebook.com/paysonprayingfornewtown.